Matamoras Minute: The Leap Year Flood

There was a lull in devastating floods in Matamoras for a period of about 20 years after the major flood of 1913. The town commemorated the highest water it had ever experienced with a high water plaque attached to the steps of the Cline & Son store on Main Street. The plate is embedded in the concrete to this day.

Then came the flood of 1936. It occurred in February and, until December of the following year, there would be five floods that covered the bottom lands, caused property damage, and closed State Route 7 above and below town. Matamoras reverted to its “island” status once more.

The Leap Year Flood in 1936 crested on Feb. 29 with 35 feet at Marietta. Then in March another rising of the river began with the crest reached on the 20th at 48.1 feet in Marietta. This was the highest since 1913. But Mother Nature had another idea, and before the river had fallen to a normal stage it began to rain heavily again. The river rose in response and on March 28 the high water reached its crest at 40.4 feet.

Once again the old routines associated with the misery of flooding were borne by the citizens. Mud was a common nuisance. It was left wherever Ohio overflowed her banks. The first move toward cleaning up after the flood came immediately as the waters began to recede.

Households which were forced to move all their furnishings and goods to the second story of the home saw their family stomp downstairs with brooms, shovels, and mops — not to mention the ire of the whole scene before them. As the water receded from the ground floor, they continued to the basement.

The Matamoras Enterprise editor, Lew Sharp, had earlier written, “The Ohio River mud is very tractable if attacked with a brush and water while still soft. But once let dry, and cease to be mud, and it is a hard proposition to get off a floor or a wall.”

One popular theory was to stir the mud constantly so it didn’t settle, and most of it left with the water. But months of cleaning awaited all those whose home had been touched by the flood.

And 1937 would see more homes “touched.”

John Miller is president of the Matamoras Area Historical Society. Membership dues are $15 per year single/couple. Life membership is $150. Contact the society at P.O. Box 1846, New Matamoras, Ohio 45767. Much of this column is built on the work of Matamoras’ historian, the late Diana McMahan.


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